New York seeking federal waiver to eliminate state, regents testing for 2020-2021 school year

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ALBANY, N.Y. (WWTI) — New York State is seeking a federal waiver to forego mandated testing for the 2020-2021 school year.

New York State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa announced on Monday that the State Education Department is seeking a federal waiver to omit testing of students for the ongoing school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Two draft federal waiver requests were released on Monday and are now available for public comment.

According to NYSED, the first waiver request seeks to waive state testing requirements at all elementary, middle and high school levels. It would also allow the Department to administer the New York State English as a a Second Language Achievement Tests only to English Language Learners who attend school in person some days of the week.

Additionally, NYSED released a second waiver request which seeks to eliminate the requirement to assign a Level one to four to each accountability subgroup for each indicator for which a school or district is accountable, or identify schools for improvement in the Fall 2021 based on 2020-2021 results.

NYSED also announced that separate from the waiver, they will seek an amendment to New York’s approved ESSA plan that would allow certain schools that are currently identified for improvement, but made progress based on 2018-2019 results, to petition for removal from improvement status.

Upon approval of these waivers by the United States Department of Education, NYSED announced plans to seek an additional waive from certain ESSA reporting requirements pertaining to assessments and accountability.

All waivers are now up for public comments.

Commissioner Rosa commented on Monday’s announcement.

“Given the varying circumstance in each school district, the only fair and appropriate decision at this time is to seek waivers to forego testing and accountability requirements for the 2020-21 school year,” said Interim Commissioner Rosa. “As part of this process we are seeking input from local stakeholders to ensure that our requests capture the experiences of our partners across the state and we look forward to reviewing their comments.”

Additionally, NYS Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr., also commented on the waiver requests.

“Throughout the pandemic the Board’s priority has been the physical and mental health, safety, and well-being of the children and adults in our schools,” said Chancellor Young, Jr.  “In light of the ongoing pandemic, we have determined that the Spring 2021 state assessments cannot be safely, equitably and fairly administered to students in schools across the state and, therefore, are seeking these waivers.”

NYSUT President Andy Pallotta also released a statement on Monday, applauding the Department.

“In a year that has been anything but standardized, it’s the right move to seek this waiver to cancel this spring’s standardized exams,” stated President Pallotta. “Educators know their students’ needs and how to maximize their potential. We’re thankful that the Department and Regents are taking this step and are here to work them to ensure students can still showcase their hard work this spring in a safe and equitable manner.” 

The New York State Education Department is accepting public comments on both waivers through February 5, 2021. Stakeholders are encouraged to complete a brief companion survey.

Full text of each proposed waiver can be read on NYSED’s ESSA website.

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